The chairman of the Bar Council India (BCI), Manan Kumar Sharma’s comment on the presence of a high percentage of lawyers being “fake” created a ripple among the legal fraternity as well as beyond in a State where the bar is a vibrant body. No one, however, has denied the veracity of the comment, and all who have commented point to lax regulations that exist in other States from where a substantial number of lawyers in Tamil Nadu are obtaining their degrees.
There are only 12 institutions in Tamil Nadu offering legal degrees, of which there are only about two or three in the private sector, which is reflective of tight regulations in this State. In comparison, there are 800 plus institutes in Uttar Pradesh, around 75 each in Karnata and Andhra Pradesh.
The trouble, according to senior professionals in Tamil Nadu, is because of the plethora of institutes in other states that are questionable.
“Many of these are fly-by-night operators who are offering degrees at a price. It is the Bar Council of India which has been mandated to regulate the legal education sector in the country. However, the BCI is not equipped to do so,” said former judge of the Madras High Court, Justice K Chandru.
On the other hand, there have been allegations of corruption and other malpractice including a case where a senior office-bearer of the BCI was caught red-handed taking a bribe from an institute. This case, which is being investigated by the CBI, is pending before the Patiala House Court.
According to the Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) president RC Paul Kanagaraj, the time has come for the BCI to tighten norms regarding recognition of institutes.
“There are even cases where the colleges do not have any of the basic facilities including infrastructure, where attendance is not compulsory, where the institutes do not bother to check the veracity of the certificates submitted. These are no better than a tutorial, but somehow manage to get recognition from the BCI. They have admission brokers to lure people from the State,” he alleged.
Practising lawyers here say the presence of fake ‘lawyers’ brings disrepute to the profession. Kanagaraj points to a case about six months ago when a group of 20 ‘advocates’ created a ruckus over a property dispute. But inquiry revealed that only one was a practising advocate.
“The rest were merely dressed in white-shirts, black-trousers claiming to be lawyers,” he said. Kanagaraj said if the BCI was serious about weeding out fake lawyers, it can be done within a few months.
“Doubts persist only in the cases of those who have obtained their certificates from outside the State. So, first verify if the certificates are genuine. As the second step, check the genuineness of Class 10 and Plus 2 certificates. Such verifications are undertaken routinely for various purposes, so it is not new or complicated,” he contended.
However, Chandru recommended an even more elaborate system of a committee headed by a retired justice or senior bureaucrat to verify the credentials of all those enrolled in each State.
D Selvam, chairman of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, claimed, “Whenever we receive complaints of a case of a fake lawyer, we immediately investigate the matter and take appropriate action. The veracity of the legal degree is checked, and officers in the jurisdiction are directed to provide the criminal background of each of the candidates before enrolling them as lawyers. In Tamil Nadu, the process is thorough.”